The portrait painting, dating from between 1770 and 1780, entered the Hermitage in 1912, when it was catalogued as a portrait of the duchess of Beaufort. But there is no documentary evidence for this identification, perhaps suggested by the fact that Gainsborough's wife, Margaret Burr was the illegitimate daughter of the duke of Beaufort. However, the painting canvas does present similarities with a portrait of the artist's wife, at half length, painted at around the same time (1778, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London). The use of color, laid on in long and light brushstrokes, is extremely refined, with evanescent hues that frame the woman's eyes and mouth, creating a surprising effect. Generally Gainsborough's portraits reveal a great capacity for psychological insight that derived from an attentive observation of reality, a characteristic that renders his work very modern.
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